Plum Bayou Mounds Archeological State Park

Plum Bayou Mounds Archeological State Park (3 LN 42), formerly known as "Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park",[3] also known as Knapp Mounds, Toltec Mounds or Toltec Mounds site, is an archaeological site from the Late Woodland period in Arkansas that protects an 18-mound complex with the tallest surviving prehistoric mounds in Arkansas. The site is on the banks of Mound Lake, an oxbow lake of the Arkansas River. It was occupied by its original inhabitants from the 7th to the 11th century.[4] The site is designated as a National Historic Landmark.

Plum Bayou Mounds
3 LN 42
Artist's conception of the archaeological site
Plum Bayou Mounds Archeological State Park is located in North America
Plum Bayou Mounds Archeological State Park
Location in North America
Alternative nameToltec Mounds
LocationLonoke County, Arkansas, US
RegionCentral Arkansas
Coordinates34°38′49″N 92°3′55″W / 34.64694°N 92.06528°W / 34.64694; -92.06528
Founded7th century
Abandoned11th century
CulturesPlum Bayou culture
Site notes
OwnershipGovernment of Arkansas
ManagementArkansas State Parks
Public accessYes
WebsiteOfficial website Edit this at Wikidata
Architectural stylesplatform mounds, burial mounds, plazas
Architectural detailsNumber of monuments:
Plum Bayou Mounds Site
NRHP reference No.73000382
Significant dates
Added to NRHPJanuary 12, 1973[1]
Designated NHLJune 2, 1978[2]
Responsible body: State



The identification of the site with the Toltec of Mexico was a 19th century misinterpretation. It was thought that the Toltec people lived in North America and built the mounds.[5] Mary Knapp was the co-owner of the land from 1849 to 1905. She and her first husband purchased the land in 1849 and the land passed to her after his death. She and her second husband made subsequent land purchases near the site.[6] Mary was interested in archeology and had become acquainted with Dr. William Barry who was also interested in Native American artefacts and customs. Mary entered into correspondence with Barry discussing the "Toltec Mounds" site and Barry passed her letter on to Joseph Henry, the secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. Mary would go on to correspond directly with Henry as well as forward artefacts she had collected from the site to the Smithsonian.[7][6]

This would lead to investigations at the site by archaeologist Edward Palmer from the Smithsonian Institutions Bureau of American Ethnology in 1883 as well as by others which proved that the indigenous ancestors of regional Native Americans built these mounds and all other mounds within the present-day United States. They were part of mound building cultures that flourished from the Late Archaic period into the Protohistoric period.[4] They built earthwork mounds for religious, political and ceremonial purposes, connecting them to their cosmology.

Originally, the name Plum Bayou was borrowed from a nearby waterway and applied to the distinctive culture of the site, discussed below. The site was officially renamed in November 2022 following consultation with the Quapaw Nation and the Arkansas Archaeological Survey.[3][8]

Plum Bayou culture


The people who built the mounds at Plum Bayou Mounds had a culture distinct from other contemporary Native American groups in the Mississippi Valley. Plum Bayou sites are found throughout the White River and Arkansas River floodplains of central and eastern Arkansas, but are also found as far west as the eastern Ozark Mountains. Plum Bayou Mounds is the largest site of the eponymous culture. Their relationships with neighboring cultures such as the Coles Creek culture to the south and Fourche Maline culture to the southwest are still under investigation.[4] The people lived in permanent villages and hamlets throughout the countryside. They built sturdy houses, farmed, gathered wild plants, fished, and hunted.

Plum Bayou Mounds Site

Two mounds at the site

Mound groups, such as this one, were religious and social centers for people living in the surrounding countryside. Plum Bayou Mounds itself had a small population, made up primarily of political and religious leaders of the community and their families. This center was occupied from the 7th to the 11th century.

Located on the banks of an oxbow lake, the archaeological site once had an 8–10-foot-high (2.4–3.0 m) and 5,298-foot-long (1,615 m) earthen embankment and ditch on three sides. The other side was the lake, now called Mound Pond. Eighteen mounds were built inside the high curving 1 mile embankment, and two were originally 38 and 49 feet (12 and 15 m) high. Mounds were placed along the edges of two open areas (plazas) which were used for political, religious, and social activities attended by people from the vicinity. At least two mounds were used for feasting, as indicated by discarded food remains. Deer were a favorite food. Mound locations seem to have been planned using principles based on the alignment with important solar positions and standardized units of measurement. Most of the mounds were flat-topped platform mounds with buildings on them. Other Native Americans lived on the site in the 15th century, but they did not build the mounds.

The site was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1978.,[2][9]

Culture, phase and chronological table for the Plum Bayou Mound site

Period Lower Yazoo Phase Dates Tensas/Natchez Phase Toltec Phase Dates
Historic Russell 1650–1750 CE Tensas/Natchez Quapaw ? 1673
Plaquemine/Mississippian culture
Late Plaquemine/Mississippian
Middle Plaquemine/Mississippian
Early Plaquemine/Mississippian
Wasp Lake 1400–1650 CE Transylvania/Emerald Quapaw ? 1650
Lake George 1300–1400 CE Fitzhugh/Foster
Winterville 1200–1300 CE Routh/Anna
Transitional Coles Creek Crippen Point 1050–1200 CE Preston/Gordon
Coles Creek culture
Late Coles Creek
Middle Coles Creek
Early Coles Creek
Kings Crossing 950–1050 CE Balmoral
Aden 800–950 CE Ballina Steele Bend 750–900 CE
Bayland 600–800 CE Sundown Dortch Bend 600–750 CE
Baytown culture
Baytown 2
Baytown 1
Deasonville 500–600 CE Marsden Dooley Bend 400–600 CE
Little Sunflower 400–500 CE Indian Bayou
Marksville culture
Late Marksville
Early Marksville
Issaquena 200–400 CE Issaquena
Anderson Landing 0–200 CE Point Lake/Grand Gulf
Tchefuncte culture Tuscola 400 BCE–0 CE Panther Lake

Table taken from "Emerging Patterns of Plum Bayou Culture:Preliminary Investigations of the Toltec Mounds Research Project", by Martha Ann Rolingson, 1982.[4]

See also



  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. January 23, 2007.
  2. ^ a b "Toltec Mounds Site". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. September 26, 2007.
  3. ^ a b "Toltec Mounds renamed Plum Bayou Mounds". November 2, 2022. Retrieved November 7, 2022.
  4. ^ a b c d Rolingson, Martha Ann (1982). Emerging Patterns of Plum Bayou Culture:Preliminary Investigations of the Toltec Mounds Research Project. Arkansas Archaeological Survey. ISBN 1-56349-042-0.
  5. ^ Rolingson, Martha Ann (November 9, 2022). "Toltec Mounds Site". Encyclopedia of Arkansas. Retrieved December 23, 2022.
  6. ^ a b Arkansas archaeology : essays in honor of Dan and Phyllis Morse. Robert C. Mainfort, Marvin D. Jeter, Dan F. Morse, Phyllis A. Morse. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press. 1999. pp. 127–128. ISBN 978-1-61075-029-5. OCLC 609350684.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  7. ^ Knapp, Mary Eliza (1877). "EARTH WORKS OX THE ARKANSAS RIVER, SIXTEEN MILES BELOW LITTLE ROCK". Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution. 1877: 251 – via Biodiversity Heritage Library.
  8. ^ Moss, Theresa (November 3, 2022). "State renames Toltec Mounds park to Plum Bayou Mounds Archeological State Park". Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
  9. ^ "National Historic Landmark Nomination" (PDF). National Park Service. February 8, 1978.